Friday, September 2, 2011

You're Not Homeschooling Because....You're Overwhelmed by the Responsibility

I hear from lots of people who are interested in keeping their children out of school, but they have numerous reasons for not doing it. This week I will explore some of those reasons.

If you are not interested in homeschooling, please feel free to browse the links in my sidebar and come back next week for more stories of authentic parenting and natural living.


In Ontario, children spend about 6 1/2 hours each day under the supervision of teachers, which includes recesses and lunch (if the children don't go home for lunch). Of this time, the law says that 300 minutes are 'teaching time'.

But the reality is that children don't spend 300 minutes per day learning the skills and knowledge laid out in the curriculum. For Primary level students (Kindergarten to Grade 3, ages 4-9), of those 300 minutes, at least 30 minutes are spent standing in lines or walking from one location within the school to another. Another 30 minutes is spent distributing and collecting assignments, notes, letters to and from parents and dealing with money (such as money collected for trips or fundraising). Another 30 minutes (at least!) is spent listening while the teacher deals with the disruptive behaviour of other students. Another 30 minutes is easily filled in the winter by putting on and taking off snowpants, boots, hats, coats, mitts and scarves. And yet another 30 minutes is wasted by normal kid activities like sharpening pencils, going to the bathroom (when permitted), rummaging through desks, and talking to classmates.

So out of 300 minutes, what is left is approximately 150 minutes to be 'dedicated to learning'. Easily, 30 to 75 minutes of that time is spent with the teacher talking and the students listening. Sometimes they are learning something, sometimes they are daydreaming or talking or otherwise fooling around. The remaining 75 -120 minutes are spent engaged in an activity such as writing or doing a science investigation or creating something artistic, if the child is sufficiently motivated to engage in the activity without fooling around or wasting time and if the child is sufficiently able to disengage from the other kids who are fooling around or wasting time.

So let's be clear:  Your child is spending less than 2 hours out of a possible 5 hours engaged in actually 'learning' what the curriculum says she should be learning.

A few years ago when I was first reading about homeschooling I found an article that said that most homeschooling parents report that they can follow the same curriculum as the school system and keep their children progressing at the same pace as their peers in school by completing 90 minutes of school-related activities per day.

My personal opinion and experience leads me to mostly agree. Specifically, I would say that 90 minutes of dedicated time is necessary for children at home to complete the curriculum from Grades 5-8. In Kindergarten and Grade 1, I would say that only 30 minutes of dedicated 'learning time' is required and maybe 60 minutes for Grades 2-4. For highschool, I suppose it would depend on the courses selected by the student.

So what are children learning in the 2 hours per day that are not dedicated to teaching and learning what is specified in the curriculum? Whether they know it or not, they are learning a lot. When the teacher is dealing with disruptive behaviour, the other kids are learning that the more noise you make the more attention you get. When they are waiting in lines, they are learning that other people are more important than they are. When their art supplies consist of 8 markers to share with 5 other kids they are learning that budgets are more important than creative expression. When they get 10 minutes for recess and they have to spend 1/2 of it in the bathroom, they are learning that schedules are more important than freedom.

So after reading this, are you still overwhelmed by the responsibility?

Replicating school at home is nothing like sending your child to school.  (I mean, are you really going to make your child ask to go to the bathroom?)  Because you know your child's strengths and weaknesses and interests so well, it is enormously easier to help them to learn at home.  Besides that, if you choose homeschooling (rather than unschooling), you will find hundreds of thousands of resources to help you just by Googling 'homeschool resources'.  You can even buy complete curriculums that come with books and worksheets and lesson plans.  There has literally NEVER been a better time to homeschool your child.

What is your biggest concern about homeschooling?


  1. My daughte is just one year old, so I have plenty of time to think how and what (I am planning on homeschooling).
    Can you talk about homeschooling as opposed to unschooling? Thanks.

  2. @Billy
    For sure!
    I'll be writing more about homeschooling and unschooling all Fall.

  3. That is one of my biggest concerns--that I'm afraid I wouldn't be teaching the kids enough, or as they got older, that I wouldn't be able to explain complex concepts that I never understood (especially in math).

    I'm so interested to read what you write about homeschooling and unschooling this fall. I've toyed around with the idea, but I'm also afraid that I would never be able to get anything done for myself, as selfish as that sounds...

  4. I remember thinking one of the few days I was out sick and had homework brought to me, "Really? I missed six hours of school and caught up in 45 minutes? What did they do all day today?" Homeschooling certainly seems like a ticket to Freedom!